How to Draw Mount Rushmore

Updated April 17, 2017

Mount Rushmore, a sculpted stone monument to great American presidents located in South Dakota, was left unfinished due to budgetary restrictions in 1941. In spite of this, it is one of the most iconic pieces of the American landscape, and is a recurring image in American culture. Drawing Mount Rushmore is a dynamite way to increase your ability to render portraits and landscapes in pencil, and to connect with American history.

Obtain a reference photograph of Mount Rushmore. If you have never been to Mount Rushmore yourself you may find a suitable photo online at the U.S. National Park Service website (see References) or in a book at your local library.

Using your reference photo to lightly block in the placement of the four heads and the surrounding landscape. Do not worry about detail at this step; just get the rough shapes down on the paper in the right place.

Consulting your reference photo again, draw the facial features -- the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth of each of the presidents.

Touch up the shapes you have made, making sure that the facial shapes and placement of all the appropriate parts match up with your reference photo.

Make darker, more confident lines to finalise the shapes in the faces.

Use your reference photo to add shadows and highlights where needed. Or, if you are more advanced, add shadows to suit the mood you wish to portray with the drawing.

Draw in any remaining background and landscape elements around the faces in the drawing. Be sure to add texture to the rocks in the mountain surrounding the faces, as they help to frame each president's portrait.


If you can't get enough variety in your shading, consider purchasing a set of drawing pencils. Having a range of different lead hardnesses available to you will enable a wider range of greys in your drawing. If you are having trouble getting the placement of everything to look right in your drawing, consider buying some tracing paper to practice with. Consider increasing your paper size if you cannot fit in all the detail that you would like. Conversely, consider decreasing your paper size if there is too little visual interest caused by lack of appropriate detail in the drawing.


Make sure your reference photo is of the real Mount Rushmore. It is a cultural icon and has been parodied in The Simpsons, Richie Rich, Naruto, and many others.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencils
  • Eraser
  • Paper
  • Reference photo
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About the Author

Richard Kyori has been writing professionally since 2006. He has been teaching design and technology courses at colleges and universities since 2005. Kyori holds a Bachelor of Arts in art history from Boston University and is working toward a Master of Architecture.